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Google Attack On the Mobile Market Rumored 324

Posted by kdawson
from the first-the-itablet-and-now-this dept.
xchg writes in with a somewhat speculative, though plausible, piece from WiseAndroid claiming that Google is gearing up for an all-out assault on the mobile-phone market that will include a new, Google-branded handset and the first comprehensive Google phone service with unlimited free calls. "The real breakthrough, however, will come with the marriage of the Googlephone to Google Voice, the Californian company’s high-tech phone service. Google Voice gives US users a free phone number and allows unlimited free calls to any phone in the country — landline or mobile. International calls start from... just over a penny a minute. Google Voice also uses sophisticated voice recognition to turn voicemails into emails, can block telemarketing calls automatically and offers free text messaging. Google sounded its intentions two weeks ago when it purchased a small company called Gizmo5... [E]xperts are predicting that the Googlephone will be launched in the US early next year."
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Google Attack On the Mobile Market Rumored

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  • by mruizcamauer (551400) on Friday November 27, 2009 @07:37PM (#30250638) Homepage
    ... of a large industry, telecoms... but that is progress!
    • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Friday November 27, 2009 @07:39PM (#30250656) Homepage

      I hate mobile phones and everything about the industry behind them.
      This sounds quite a bit less hate-able.

      • by Philip K Dickhead (906971) <folderol@fancypants.org> on Friday November 27, 2009 @07:47PM (#30250764) Journal

        What industry abuses their customers, dangles features and incentives of questionable value in a quid pro quo for contractual lock-in and then produces unilateral unpredictable billing and surcharges to this captive market? No. You are right! That describes Credit Card companies, the only business hated more by their customer base than the mobile phone providers.

        They share in common, contempt for the flock they shear.

        Google will succeed because of the venality and arrogance of the incumbent carriers. That's why they chose this market. Google will be a company people like, despite the creeping monopoly of their personal information and continuing erosion of their privacy.

        • by Shakrai (717556) on Friday November 27, 2009 @07:53PM (#30250824) Journal

          What industry abuses their customers, dangles features and incentives of questionable value in a quid pro quo for contractual lock-in and then produces unilateral unpredictable billing and surcharges to this captive market? No. You are right! That describes Credit Card companies, the only business hated more by their customer base than the mobile phone providers.

          What credit card company uses 'contractual lock-in'? I've never seen a credit card that you couldn't cancel at any time.

        • by CAIMLAS (41445)

          What industry abuses their customers, dangles features and incentives of questionable value in a quid pro quo for contractual lock-in and then produces unilateral unpredictable billing and surcharges to this captive market? No. You are right! That describes Credit Card companies, the only business hated more by their customer base than the mobile phone providers.

          Actually, the question could easily apply to the federal government, as well. At least if you consider the actual taxpayers to be "customers". They're getting shafted, and there's even less that can be done for it.

        • by erikina (1112587)

          What industry abuses their customers, dangles features and incentives of questionable value in a quid pro quo for contractual lock-in and then produces unilateral unpredictable billing and surcharges to this captive market? No. You are right! That describes Credit Card companies, the only business hated more by their customer base than the mobile phone providers. That describes Credit Card companies, the only business hated more by their customer base than the mobile phone providers.

          Why do you suppose these customers are using a credit card? All my credit cards directly debit my bank account (the full amount) at the end of the month, give me rewards for using it (from the merchant fees), give me interest free purchases (till the end of month), and it's more convenient than carrying around cash. And if at any stage I'm unhappy with it, I'm free to walk away.

          And the points about lock-in, unpredictable billing, surcharges and captive market are all crap. Sounds just like more whining by s

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ani23 (899493)
        why the mobile phone hate. I think its the single most awesome thing in the last decade. imagine being able to call a loved one from wherever you are and know that you will be able to get through (in most cases). the industry on the other hand . . .
        • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          why the mobile phone hate. I think its the single most awesome thing in the last decade.

          Awesome as long as you like being on a long leash.

    • by StreetStealth (980200) on Friday November 27, 2009 @07:46PM (#30250740) Journal

      Ever since the introduction of 2G mobile technology, we've just been throwing data back and forth between the towers, and yet even in 2009 the telcos still charge us differently for minutes, text messages, and "data."

      It was always going to take a disruptive force to get them to recognize data as data and price it as such. Maybe Google will serve as just that disruption.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Though voicecalls are a bit more than data - not only because of QoS requirements but also due to need for interaction with "general" telephone network.

        OTOH cost of text messages was always virtually zero...

    • by Myopic (18616) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:32PM (#30251200)

      Goodness, I hope Google offers a phone.

      Today I went to an AT&T store (I'm an AT&T customer) trying to buy a phone, as I've been doing for literally years. I'm a computer programmer, a big nerd, and I still have a crappy candybar phone from 2002. I really want some kind of super smart phone, but no company is apparently willing to sell me one! To me, my constraints all seem reasonable:

      • The phone must charge and sync data over a standard USB or mini-USB cable, with no proprietary chargers or data cables.
      • The phone's software must be under my control, so I can install a new operating system if I want, or whatever else I want. It must be a fully open hardware platform, the same way I can install new software on my computer.
      • The phone must use standard SIM cards so I can easily switch telephone providers, or travel internationally with pay-as-you-go SIM cards.
      • The phone must have Bluetooth which can be used for earbuds and for data syncing.
      • If it's a smart phone, it must be able to show real full webpages, not just mobile versions of webpages.

      Really, are those such unreasonable requests? I'm just not willing to pay money to companies that make me endure shenanigans such as:

      • Phones that only work on one carrier. (WTF?)
      • Phones that require a $50 cable to sync data or to charge the battery. (WTF?)
      • Phones that have Bluetooth but it can't be used to sync data, only to communicate with proprietary peripherals. (WTF?)
      • Phones that hold information for the people I contact, but provide no way to get that info off the phone. (WTF?)

      So the first company that offers me a smart phone with zero shenanigans is going to get my money. I'm desperate for a new phone, and I'm going to buy the first one that is above the threshold of acceptability! My phone is an embarrassment, and I'm a perfect candidate for an expensive new phone, and I'm really surprised that there is no company that wants my money.

      • by Flavio (12072) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:56PM (#30251386)

        Here's the deal: be realistic. No company's going to offer you a "fully open" cell phone simply because there aren't any fully open operating systems for smart phones out there, and rushing something similar to the market would end up in a support nightmare. Nokia's come a long way with Maemo running on the N900, but the user impressions I've read wrt to the N900 make it clear that the software is beta at best, and is lacking features one would consider standard in a smartphone.

        Here's my unsolicited advice: buy an unlocked GSM phone from overseas. My GSM Nokia 5800 can sync over USB or bluetooth, connect me to the Internet over bluetooth using Nokia's Ovi Suite (for Windows) and comes with all the cables you'll need, including the car charger. It's a very affordable smartphone, has great GPS functionality which doesn't require an internet connection to download maps, can play high resolution videos, has a real (albeit kind of slow) web browser and is made by Nokia, which is the most OSS-friendly cell phone manufacturer out there.

        • by Myopic (18616)

          I sincerely appreciate your advice. I'll look into the N900. All I mean about "fully open" is that the hardware should not have any artificial barriers to me altering its software. It might be relatively hard to get serial-level access to the drives or ROMs or whatever, but beyond that, the manufacturer should not have put in extra effort to frustrate efforts to change the software configuration. They don't have to make it easy, but they need to NOT make it hard.

          • by hitmark (640295)

            question is, how much of it is manufacturer, and how much is carrier.

            my understanding as a outsider is that some US carriers loves messing with phone firmware before it hits customers.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Check out the Nokia N900. Runs Maemo, basically a completely unlocked Debian distro (unlike Android or Moblin, which while extremely polished are kind of sandboxes). Don't know if the cable is standard mini-USB, but I think Nokia is pushing in that direction. It was just released and reviews are starting to trickle in. They haven't been completely positive (a lot of people don't like the older tech resistive touch screen, which is much less sensitive to fingers and can't do multi-touch), but I think this ma

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by csboyer (1101385)
        Buy an unlocked GSM phone. The N900 meets most of your qualifications above but it only works with T-mobile 3G =(. You can get ATT 2G no problem but thats a deal breaker for most people.
        • by Myopic (18616)

          Hmmm, yeah that may or may not be a deal breaker for me. I'm not sure, because I don't have any data at all on my phone. But thank you for the tip, I will look into the N900.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        I'm an AT&T user (in before NSA wiretapping) and one of the most appalling aspects of their data plans is that tethering with a 5GB limit is an additional 60 bucks a month. It costs the same price per month for them to flip a magic switch on your existing phone as it does for them to give you an extra 3g adapter!

        Years ago I had a phone and a 3G adapter but the 3g speeds sucked and the coverage was spotty even though I was in a major metropolitan area. It's probably worse now that so many iPhones are
      • by sznupi (719324)

        You won't get fully open platform, rules of whatever entity that regulates your radio spectrum prevent that, basically.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by GreenCow (201973)

        the G1 fills those requirements, except the proprietary jack (htc), i have a 10$ dongle that gives it mini-usb+audio+htc, but the G1 includes out of box an htc-usb cable for data and charging. the G1 is 179 with a tmo contract (400 no contract) and can be easily unlocked to install debian arm.

        i think the motorola droid on verizon or most other android phones would fit most of these features as well.

      • by Dun Malg (230075)
        I have a Google G2 made for Rogers Wireless Canada. Rogers uses the correct 3G data freq like AT&T does, so it works with AT&T, unlike the T-Mobile stuff. There are some barriers to getting at the OS, but the hacking community is very active and has pretty much cracked it wide open. The Google OS is pretty thickly entangled with the OS, but that's to be expected. Still, after many infuriating years trying to get Windows Mobile phones to do anything right, I'm fairly impressed with the G2. You can ev
      • by PineGreen (446635)

        Buy N97 - it costs $600 upfront, but you are unlocked forever... I use it with pay as you go card AT&T sim card, with tethering, google maps, mobile IMAP3 reader, mp3 mplayer, etc etc, and my bils are around $30 a month. Such my balls, iPhone!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by onefriedrice (1171917)

        To me, my constraints all seem reasonable:

        • blah blah blah...

        You want all that, but you don't also want a pony?

  • by BuckaBooBob (635108) on Friday November 27, 2009 @07:45PM (#30250718)

    This will be very interesting to see how this will work out as every Cell Phone Carrier will do what ever they can to Quash this as its attacks their revenue streams.

    This should prove to be an interesting battle as google has the funding to fight tooth and nail to ensure the cell carriers don't lock them out.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nerdfest (867930)

      google has the funding to fight tooth and nail to ensure the cell carriers don't lock them out.

      and in contrast to all the phone carriers, a large percentage of people like, or at least respect the company. I can pretty much only see some good coming out of this.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        ...that is, if there is a battle at all. When google feigned a bid for the wireless spectrum freed up by the digital TV conversion, I had high hopes they had big plans to launch a new network and re-make the wireless market in America. They didn't. Is it even possible now for a new competitor to come in, acquire spectrum, create a nationwide network, and compete with the incumbents? I don't see how, so I don't dare get my hopes up. The ownership of spectrum, in particular, seems like an impassable limi
        • Is it even possible now for a new competitor to come in... I don't see how, so I don't dare get my hopes up...

          I understand how you feel, but take heart. I used to feel the same way about telephone companies, operating systems, cable companies, network television, and other things. In each case, radical technological changes have taken what seemed like hopeless situations and turned it into something radically different than most people expected. Consider:

          • Operating systems. A while back it was difficu
      • I imagine the FCC will do most of the fighting for them.

        I call shens on this article though. Smells of hype. No substance.

        Related: I used to be able to call my Google Voice number with Skype-- but I can't anymore. I even have logs that show making and holding a connection for 35 seconds or so while I tested the forwarding. Not anymore. "Invalid number".
        Ebay/Skype/PayPal-- can't stand them.

    • The local service for land lines still is owned by the Telcos so Google will have to pay for that, access is granted by law but whoever owns the line can ask for reimbursement fees. . If they don't own the towers and the network infrastructure to carry calls then how will they offer service unless they piggyback on an existing service? Will a Google Phone work on every carrier and for free? Or will the carriers detect a "foreign" SIM card and block access, similar to how my AT&T phone won't work on a
      • by Renraku (518261)

        "High barriers to entry, low margins and high investments doesn't sound like a good market to be in."

        Low margins on the cell phone network? Are you crazy? They buy phones that cost them $100 and turn around and sell them for $500. On top of that, they massively oversell the network resources they have available. On top of that, many operate at reduced tax rates for various technology/communications grants. On top of that, most of their employees in the sales sector make minimum wage plus commission. O

        • No, that "$500" is a "Suggested Retail Price". Very, very few people actually pay that: they get it at a profoundly "reduced" price as part of a contract for years of cell phone service. The cell phone service may or may not be very profitable, but it's absolutely vital for the careers of the investors and VP's at the cell phone companies to grow, no matter what the rest of the market does, preferably faster than other carriers. So they commit unsustainable economic foolishness to make this quarter's growth

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by incongruency (1683022)

        Or will the carriers detect a "foreign" SIM card and block access, similar to how my AT&T phone won't work on a Sprint cell network.

        Actually, this particular instance is not a case of Sprint rejecting a Ma Bell SIM card, it's a case of two entirely different wireless technologies. AT&T and T-Mobile in the US run on a more globally accepted standard, known as GSM. However, Verizon and Sprint run on a faster, but less accepted, standard known as CDMA. These two are incompatible with each other; your AT&T phone won't work on the Sprint network because it speaks the wrong language.

      • by Unoti (731964)

        I think Google likes selling the technology like Andriod to phone mfgs as that is low risk and high payback.

        Actually, Android is open source. They give it away; they don't sell it. They make money off ad revenue. How that all works out is a little mysterious to me, I'll admit... But Android's Gmail integration is better than what you get on iPhone. And the Google navigation app is better than what's available on iPhone. I can see how things like that lead to more ad revenue for Google indirectly. St

    • by fermion (181285)
      A year or two ago, when the US status quo was for a third party to customize phones for the network, and the top provider was still Nokia and Sony-Ericson, this might have been possible. The US wireless providers would have been united in keeping the user as far away as the manufacturer as possible, and guarantee their financial stream.

      Now, however, Apple has created a device that is manufactured for the end user, not the network. Verizon, et al has tried to sue to make this not the case, to limit end u

  • if this is true... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by garynuman (1666499)
    wouldn't this, if true, lead to a pretty massive shakeup in the telcom industry? i would imagine at the very least the pricing of plans would have to change drastically
  • Why does the 3D-rendered "Googlephone" in TFA appear to be running Windows Mobile?

    This is a fun rumor, but I don't really get much of a sense of its veracity from this article.

  • by NeuralClone (860360) on Friday November 27, 2009 @07:50PM (#30250802)
    This is all very interesting but Google Voice barely functions when calling internationally. And I've had horrible luck with it domestically too.

    I've been trying to use this service for a while now and it consistently connects me to random numbers in the country I'm calling (yes, I'm dialing the right number and I'm dialing correctly). When I actually do connect to some random person, they can't hear me 4 out of 5 times (and that's being generous).

    When calling domestically, I get connected to who I'm calling, but 50% of the time one of us can't hear the other. Very irritating.

    So, until they can actually guarantee that their service, you know, WORKS, this isn't something I'm remotely interested in. Google Voice isn't even close to ready for anything beyond a fun little service to play with.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by TSHTF (953742)
      Here's another data point for a random end-user: I've used Google Voice to the tune of approximately 1200 minutes per month for the last four months and haven't experienced service issues with receiving calls or placing calls. I've made very few international calls, however.
    • I haven't used it for outbound calls, but I quite enjoy the many calls from far away numbers that I receive badly transcribed in my inbox from people quitting their jobs, or going on vacation, or trying to find out why their girlfriend hasn't called them back. It's a form of entertainment.
    • by Dun Malg (230075)
      Well, in the immortal words of one of my friends in IT, "it must be something wrong with your setup, because it works fine on mine." Perhaps it depends on where you call internationally. I call Austria, Germany, and Belgium regularly without trouble. Also never had a domestic call not work unless I was out of 3G range (Google Voice is integrated with my G2 cell phone). Maybe it's just localized sunspots in your area, or swamp gas, or a weather balloon, or the phase of the moon.
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Friday November 27, 2009 @07:59PM (#30250872) Journal
    Google called it Android because the planet from where they all come from has lots of Androids. And Oprah, Laura Bush, as well as Michelle Obama are secretly having babies from the top guys of Google.

    I think that should cover all the conspiracies.
  • Adapt or else (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:05PM (#30250926) Homepage Journal
    Remember when web mail providers were giving like 4Mb of mailbox capacity, and then Google came with 2Gb (oh, yes, and a spam filter that actually worked)? Most providers didnt vanished, just had to adapt and still are here, giving a better service to their costumer. For cellphone industry that is something very needed, someone that come with a disruptive idea and weight enough behind to actually push it. Wont kill all companies, but to survive they will have to improve, not just giving the latest gizmo and charging you a lot.
    • by Nikker (749551)
      Exactly! The only thing Google is offering here is a soupped up VOIP solution. Once google breaks in the carriers then it's open game for everyone else. Let them get into the market and maybe we can crack this nut.
      • by salesgeek (263995)

        Except Google Voice isn't VOIP. It's unified messaging and call forwarding. No VOIP to see here.

        • by hitmark (640295)

          well i suspect their backhaul runs a voip style solution.

          basically, google have been grabbing a lot of dark fiber, becoming independent of the peering agreements.

          i hazard a guess that they can pull of the prices by making all calls a local outbound call, much like skype, and running the actual call over spare capacity.

          and with their invite system they can make sure not to overload that capasity. unlike the ISPs and similar.

          and ones they tie things fully with gizmo. maybe turning it into part of gtalk, they

  • Can the quality of service of a US company be the envy of Europe, instead of the other way around?
  • by zogger (617870) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:33PM (#30251222) Homepage Journal

    At first I thought, whoa, the google phone company, then I broke down and RTFA....You still need a "plan" of some sort from a carrier unless you are using this google phone at some free leeched wifi spot or at home on your network. If you are at home..no need for a special phone, just use your headset and the software like you are now.

    If this takes off and people drop voice and go to data only plans, the carriers will just restrict the heck out of them, maybe even dropping the caps from five gigs to one gig, then a hundred bucks a gig after that, whatever they say, or stop offering data only plans, etc. In other words, they aren't going to get "cut out", you will still be horking over ca$h to attverizonsprint whatever.

    I am digging on much better quality phones though..eventually I think the mobile phone will more or less be your computer, and at home you'll just have a wireless connected screen and keyboard and mouse, etc with some NAS action.

    • by Myopic (18616)

      I understand what you are saying, but remember that several years ago Google bought all that dark fiber? That is a hedge against uncooperative competitors.

      • towers (Score:2, Insightful)

        by zogger (617870)

        Yes, I remember that, but I am also thinking of these things called towers. They ain't cheap and you need thousands and thousands of them along with all the cellular electronic radio doo dads (hi tech speak there). I mean, maybe google could pull it off, but it would take all their spare cash, then some to do it.

        The majors let the smaller guys in on the action, but they charge them well, all the pre paid guys, but if google was cutting into their voice plan cash...I doubt they would lease space to them.

        Eith

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by geoskd (321194)

          Yes, I remember that, but I am also thinking of these things called towers. They ain't cheap and you need thousands and thousands of them along with all the cellular electronic radio doo dads (hi tech speak there). I mean, maybe google could pull it off, but it would take all their spare cash, then some to do it.

          Most cell towers are not owned by carriers, the carriers merely rent space on the towers from those who do own them. Often you will see a tower in a prime location has all three carriers hanging off it. This means that if google should chose to do so, jumping in would not be as expensive as you think. The key cost is funding your cell network until you get enough users to pay the rents. Kind of a chicken and egg thing. If you don't have the infrastructure, you wont get the users, but you cen't get the infr

  • by Myopic (18616) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:52PM (#30251356)

    The article says

    For the first time, a single company will control everything from the software in users’ phones to the services they use to make calls and surf the web.

    But wait, every phone I've ever had the hardware, software, and services were controlled 100% by my phone carrier. So in that way, the Google phone would be the same.

    To me, the difference is that I trust the hardware, software, and services from Google, but I don't for a second trust AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon. They have proven that they refuse to provide products and services that I want, but Google has proven that they very much understand and want to provide the products and services that I want. I share the privacy concerns about Google, but at this point I'm just being vigilant, watching for Google to violate my trust. So far so good.

    Google! Please put the dinosaurs out of business! I want to stop giving them my money! I want to give you my money for better services!

    • Google, as a brand, does have an amazing amount of trust. We should just drop the whole Health Care debate and convince Google to go into the business of selling Health Insurance.

    • See, unlike yourself, I don't trust Google. Not to say that I trust AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon either. I don't trust any of them. Currently, I even place less trust in Google than I do in many other corporations. The fact that my privacy means very little to it irritates me. I dislike advertising, which is another notch down for the company.

      Something about Google is just...eerie. They go into a type of business, and by sheer weight they eventually win out. Some of their ideas are interesting, I
  • How is Google making money on this and is this going to annoy me enough to stick with what I have?

  • by bezenek (958723) on Friday November 27, 2009 @09:21PM (#30251550) Journal
    I assume Google will beta test a phone like this in-house. I will be watching for Google employees carrying something unusual as they walk across the street on the Santa Clara campus.

    -Todd
  • by Jawn98685 (687784) on Friday November 27, 2009 @09:35PM (#30251630)
    RTFA, folks. Google is far, far from posing a threat to the wireless carriers. VOIP over Wi-Fi is one thing, but VOIP over 3G wireless (or whatever) is something else entirely, something that the actual carriers have the means, and certainly the motivation, to fuck with at will (as we have already seen). Unless/until Google starts putting up their own towers, there is nothing new here, at least nothing revolutionary or "game changing".
  • by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @02:42AM (#30252912)
    Google makes me nervous as it continues to expand into new markets. I may not like most of the other companies that Google is going up against but they don't bother me. Why not? Because I understand what motivates them: profit and self-interest. That's black and white.

    "Don't be evil", though, that's getting a bit subjective. Sure, most everyone will agree that evil is bad, at least in theory, but in practice coming to an agreement on the definition of evil is difficult. If Google wins, they're subjecting me to their definition of good, which I may or may not agree with. I like my bad guys to be bad...I like knowing they're trying to rip me off and take advantage of me. I don't want them doing things because they think it's best for me.

    In other words, if I'm going to be screwed I want it to be by someone who knows he's screwing me, not by someone who thinks he's doing me a favor.

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